By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– Christians in Nigeria fear more deadly violence after the president postponed elections over security concerns as the government tries to regain territories currently held by Islamic militants.
Nigerian Christians remain worried about possible new clashes as a result of the postponement and
post-election clashes, BosNewsLife learned.
While visiting Nigeria, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s urged both southern Christian and incumbent president, Goodluck Johnathan, and northern Muslim and opposition candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari to hold the ballot as planned.
Jonathan’s administration made clear however that the February 14 presidential vote should be postponed till March 28 amid a multinational battle against Islamic group Boko Haram, or ‘Western education is sinful’, which has captured huge areas in northeastern Nigeria.
Failure of the military offensive is expected to impact Jonathan’s chances for re-election. He currently is tied with Buhari, with both claiming 46 percent of the vote, according to polls.
Boko Haram is threatening Nigeria’s territorial integrity and opening a new frontier by targeting neighbouring Cameroon as part of its efforts to establish a strict Islamic state.
Officials estimate that some three million people are affected by the humanitarian crisis caused by the five-year insurgency and thousands, including many Christians, have been killed.
This week the African Union of African nations concluded a three-day conference in Cameroon’s capital city of Youndé to finalize details for a 7,500 member multinational force to fight Boko Haram.
Troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin are to set to compose the force, but observers say the troop deployments may be delayed as some conference attendees reportedly conditioned support on U.N. funding.
Amid the political and military tensions, Buhari urged his followers to remain calm. “Any act of violence can only complicate the security challenges in the country and provide further justification to those who would want to exploit every situation to frustrate the democratic process,” Buhari said.
Yet Christians have reason to remain concerned, suggested experts. “Following Buhari’s loss to Johnathan” in the 2011 elections, “Muslims, primarily in the north, committed a pogrom against their Christian neighbors, burning down more than 700 churches and destroying more than 300 Christian homes and businesses,” recalled International Christian Concern (ICC) a major advocacy group. “In all more than 800 people died as result of the violence.”
Northeastern states, including Borno, Bauchi, Adamawa and Yobe, remain under a state of emergency heading into the elections. “Regardless of the postponement, we remain concerned for the safety and security of the Nigerian people in the upcoming general elections,” said ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Cameron Thomas.
Boko Haram, Thomas said “has made major advancements and thoroughly established itself as Africa’s
preeminent terrorist organization.”
While, “we hope and pray that the offensive will restore considerable amounts of territory to the control of the Nigerian state, we continue to call for greater efforts to secure polling locations in light of Boko Haram’s expanded capabilities,” the official added.
Additionally, ICC urged spiritual, political and community leaders across Nigeria to “promote peace regardless of the outcome of the impending elections. Nigeria can only move forward to address the many serious issues it faces in unity.”
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